View Our Practice Areas

Research shows that eyewitness testimony is often wrong

Research has proven that eyewitness testimony is often flawed. Experts believe new methods for gathering statements may help.

Evidence is required before a judge can convict someone who has been charged with a crime in Connecticut. However, when it comes to eyewitness testimony, proof of the truth may be the opposite of what is provided.

According to USA Today, DNA tests have reversed over 300 convictions throughout the U.S. and in 75 percent of those cases, eyewitness identification was a primary factor. Despite this, eyewitness testimony continues to play a powerful role in criminal prosecutions, and faulty convictions remain a serious problem.

Witness accounts

Science Daily reports that specifics provided by eyewitnesses are often wrong. The more frequently they are allowed to repeat the story of what they believe they saw, the less likely they are to provide a reliable statement. Repetition breeds confidence, though, and officials often give more weight to narratives that are provided without hesitation or stumbling.

When witnesses are encouraged to write down their statement without saying it to anyone first, they often provide more dependable facts. Although they may not be able to correctly describe a person's facial features or clothing, events are often related with more accuracy.

The lineup

The Innocence Project states that the way that witnesses are presented with faces in a lineup makes a difference in their memory recall. Cues given by law enforcement could even lead witnesses to change their original descriptions of the alleged criminal suspect.

There are proven solutions to these flaws in the system. For example, when officers do not know which person in the lineup is the suspect, there is much less chance that the witness will be influenced by their hunches. Experts also recommend that witnesses should only be shown people who actually resemble the physical description the witnesses provided.

The system

In spite of research and the solutions that have been proven effective, USA Today reports that officials continue to employ damaging techniques. The problem may lie in the fact that many police departments have not set up guidelines for the processes used in eyewitness identification. This is a problem that persists, regardless of the size of the agency.

When witnesses make errors in their identification of another person as the perpetrator, innocent people can find themselves sitting in a prison cell. Without an evaluation of whether an investigation process was performed correctly, false testimony may not be discredited. Anyone who has been accused of a crime should discuss their concerns with an experienced criminal defense attorney.